CARSON, Calif. – An appearance in MLS Cup 2011 might be the culmination of a tremendous season for the LA Galaxy, but Sunday’s 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake was the team’s reward for a week’s worth of hard work.
The Galaxy won their third match in eight days by beating RSL and will now play host to Houston Dynamo in MLS Cup on Nov. 20.
A week ago, the Galaxy beat New York by 1-0 at Red Bull Arena, then won the return leg by a 2-1 margin.
“The three games we played this week were as difficult as games as we’ve played all year,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “[Against Real Salt Lake] our energy was great. We created a number of chances. I thought it was a real good performance.”
Winning MLS Cup was one of the club’s main goals and a clear target all season long. Having simply reached the final, then, was not cause for over-celebration. No champagne flowed in the locker room, and aside from a bit of an extra postgame crowd, the celebration was much the same as it has been for most any other game the team has won this season.
“We’re happy to be winning the Western final, but we know that there is one more game to go so we’re not getting carried away,” Galaxy midfielder David Beckham said. “We did that a couple of years ago and we paid for it. We didn't win the MLS Cup final, so hopefully this will be something that we're happy to win [on Sunday], but we know that we've got one more game.”
Against RSL, the Galaxy were at a bit of an advantage. Jámison Olave and Nat Borchers were injured and missed Wednesday’s match in Seattle, and only Olave was able to return for Sunday’s match.
“We knew that Olave would struggle, that if him or Borchers or both of them played, that they were going to be hindered and we wanted to get after them early and often,” Donovan said. “[Chris] Schuler did well but he’s still inexperienced and this is as big of a game as he’s played, and we wanted to put them under a lot of pressure, make them make decisions. And I think it paid off.”
Even still, the match was on level terms until Beckham swung a cross into the front of the goal in the 58th minute. Mike Magee buried the header and it was all but over that point as the Galaxy went into the ascendant, eventually getting the third through Robbie Keane 10 minutes later.
“We could taste it. We knew we were that close,” Donovan said. “We had a few early looks and then David made another unbelievable play, and Mike Magee [had] another fantastic finish. We knew at that point we were going to win the game.”